One of my favorite eras is the 1920s. It was a time of jazz and the creation of America's music. It was when one of the most important archaeological discoveries of modern times was made as digging in Luxor, Egypt, revealed King Tut's tomb showing physical history that laid hidden for 3000 years. But, most important, it was a time when women in the United States first had the right to vote. Today is Women's Equality Day in the United States. First established in 1972 by Rep. Bella Abzug, this date commemorates the passage of the 19th amendment, the women's suffrage amendment to the U.S. constitution which gave U.S. women full voting rights in 1920.
Today, men and women who vote with an informed opinion and understanding of the difficult issues currently "shaking the globe" will shape the future. If you want to be satisfied with what you accomplish and the life you lead, consider designing your own future rather than having it imposed on you. It sounds easy, but it is often harder to do. If you decide it's worth the effort, then understand your aspirations, garner new perspectives, and confront destructive behavior to make a change. Allow me to offer three specific ways to shape the future so we can make the "Wild Tens" of this century as productive and meaningful as the Roaring Twenties ninety years ago.
Learn About Your Options
Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a 48-year old woman who was struggling to decipher financial concepts in her 401(k) and to make decisions about new investment vehicles offered by her Fortune 100 company. One of my passions is to eliminate the fear of understanding simple financial concepts so that individuals can make wise decisions and have peace of mind regarding economic decisions they make or, by default, don't make. So, when this woman asked for help, I explained the various financial terms and benchmarks. For the first time, she had a sense of what kind of returns and safety she should expect from her investments. We both felt satisfied by this conversation because our mutual goal was to construct an effective financial plan to help achieve her dreams.
Listen to Different Perspectives
Once you understand your options, you need to seek out new perspectives. Leaders do not have a "leader-centric" view of the world because they know that everything does not revolve around an individual leader. Each leader is only one node in a more dynamic and realistic network view of business. He or she is part of a larger system--a business unit, a company, a culture, an industry, a world--in which there are many perspectives. To develop perspectives other than your own, you must have the ability to identify perspectives--or informed opinions--that will give you insights into achieving your goals. Then, employ those insights to reach your goals. Aspiring leaders who can do this enhance their ability to successfully execute their plans. Those who switch from one workplace role to another often have the ability to appreciate multiple perspectives. The famous author and TV show host Suze Orman was a bakery shop waitress who became a financial planner, creating a personal net worth of $32 million. Harry Hurt's New York Times article, "The Ubiquitous Suze Orman," reviews her talents for gaining new perspectives. He writes that:
Ms. Orman contends that "more than 50 percent" of women suffer from Bag Lady Syndrome, a fear that one day they will end up penniless and homeless. This fear, she says, is only compounded by "shame" women feel over not knowing about money and their propensity to "blame" others for not teaching them.
I don't accept her assertion about "50 percent" of all women feel a certain way, but I sense that she empathizes with a large number of her viewers and readers. Despite being a multi-millionaire, she recognizes the risks and fears her audience may have--perhaps even remembering her own fears from her younger days.
As you rely on others to work toward yours or the company's goals, recognize that sometimes people promise more than they deliver or even act in a counter-productive fashion. Holding someone accountable for their shortcomings requires a "crucial confrontation." Joseph Grenny's book of the same title explains the tools for resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behaviors--and it is a must-read for today's leaders.
I have discovered many people, who, after articulating a dream, seek perspectives, consider them, confront tough situations, and then reap the rewards. Think about your desired future. It will help transform the amorphous perspectives into a meaningful framework. It will give you the courage to overcome difficulties and to lead others. And, Ladies and Gentlemen, don't forget to vote in local and federal elections. It shapes our future.